This time, I present you my small but effective keyboard setup in my project studio that is used for songwriting and recording sessions. The setup is divided into a master keyboard with 88 keys and a synthesiser controller with 49 keys. Both are connected via USB with the studio computer and do not need an additional power supply - a very straightforward setup. Let me show you which keys I am currently using in my daily production and songwriting life.
Masterkeys: M-Audio Hammer88
The M-Audio Hammer 88 with its weighted hammer mechanism keyboard is my central piece in my keys setup. From my point of view, you always need a keyboard with hammer mechanism in your project studio to have the most realistic performing experience and recorded performance as possible when you record a grand piano or Fender Rhodes through virtual instruments. The Hammer 88 fully meet my needs as guitarist and producer, but I am quite sure that professional pianists are aiming at a completely different price range and brand as I do with guitars or recording equipment compared to less specialised people in that field. I am entirely happy with the Hammer 88 in combination with a sustain pedal, and other studio musicians could work smoothly with it as well during our writing and recording sessions. Therefore, it will stay one of my main songwriting tools until I fancy an upgrade in the (far) future.
Synth Controller: Arturia Keylab49
As you might have recognised in some of my previous blog articles like "My Favourite Piano & Synth Plugins", I am a big fan of Arturia's virtual instruments, and I enjoy the well-implemented communication between their software and hardware products that allows you an almost mouse-free workflow while being creative. That is the primary but sole reason why I do not want to miss my Keylab49 anymore. But I need to clarify that I had a lot of trouble with this piece of hardware since I bought the then brand-new Keylab in 2014. Keylab's weakness is the integrated key bed (semi-weighted) that seems to be in relatively poor quality. Two repairs in 2014, the first relatively close to the purchase date, that lead to issues with my former go-to music store that was not willing to repair it a second time without being paid although the item had a valid warranty and I treated the equipment professionally.
However, back then, I switched to my beloved music store Thomann, and after Arturia released its Keylab49 mkII in summer 2018 I ordered the - according to Arturia - "revised" key bed directly from the factory and swapped it with the old one. Since then, I finally do not have problems anymore with the keys. What a painful journey it was! I am sure you can comprehend my frustration if you had a similar situation as a musician or audio professional someday. Maybe some reader owns a 2018s Keylab and can tell us about the build quality in the comments ;)
The slanted keyboard stand makes it possible to play both keys simultaneously. Additionally, it is very solid and space-saving. Some pianists who placed a master keyboard with a sustain pedal on the lower tier criticise that the stand's feet would hamper the use of a pedal because of lack of space. I place my sustain pedal behind the stand's feet because I am generally used to have the pedals a bit behind the keys as you have it when playing a grand piano. I do not see any problems here, but maybe someone wants to have it look fancier. Anyway, I can warmly recommend this type of stand, and I am perfectly happy with it.
Feel free to share your experiences with the presented products or tell us how your favourite keys setup looks like and what equipment you can recommend.